We had a request from a freelance writer who was putting an article together for an auto industry publication. The writer sent a list of 13 or so questions; one of which had us chuckling around the water cooler. It was a simple question with not so simple an answer:
"With all the online research a potential customer can now do on their own now, how do you see this changing the way dealerships sell cars to customers?"
The smart-alec response is: well it takes 2 days of seminar content to cover off that question - kind of hard to answer in a couple of compact paragraphs! Or is it? The question begs for one of those very dangerous generalizations that says: all customers are now like this or all customers now want that. But we’re not falling into that trap.
It is true that customers now have more information at their disposal and robust shopping tools that allow them to "self-serve" themselves further into the decision process. They are more likely now to first contact us when they have already narrowed their selection to just a very few possibilities - yours might even be the only vehicle being considered!
So how does this change how we sell? Now more than ever before our professional service must be:
Consultative - We need to find out where they are in their research and shopping process. How far along are they? What information do they need next? If they have narrowed it down to just a few possibilities we need to consult with them so we can validate their selection. If we can confirm for them that the vehicle they want is the best match to their needs or changing circumstances, then they can have enough confidence to make a decision.
Adaptable - The days of an inflexible "road to the sale" that was applied to everyone is long gone. That old thinking assumed the customer didn't know the vehicles and couldn't make a good decision on which ones matched their needs and budget. Now we have to be adaptive to the research work the customer has already done. Starting back at the beginning and assuming they know nothing is only good for your competitor; your customer won't put up with it.
Individual - Was everyone the same back when vehicle information wasn't so ubiquitous? No. Are they all the same and ultra-informed now? No. Our approach needs to be responsive to the individual customer. Don't assume. Find out. We need to "meet them where they are" in their decision process and help them to the next logical step to getting what they want - your vehicle!
So the philosophy of how we sell is simple. As always, the difficulty comes in the execution but always starts with earning the trust and confidence of our customer.